Yes, we are still in the book of Romans. For many Christians, Romans 1 is the key passage against same gender sexual activity, so we need to cover it thoroughly. In this episode of the ALLin Podcast, we look at seven additional interpretative options for Romans 1.
If you’re satisfied with my explanations so far, you might want to just skip the rest of this episode. This one has a lot of detail and further options for interpreting Romans 1, for sake of completeness. While I have sympathy for these seven views, I do not endorse them all, and find some more compelling than others. I present them for two reasons. Firstly, for the sake of completeness – these are views held by committed Christians and qualified theologians alike. Secondly, and more importantly, so that those who might still be clinging to a traditional interpretation of Romans 1, despite the detail I have supplied about context and about the meanings of key words, can see that there are significant additional problems with the traditional reading of Romans 1.
There is a danger that by presenting a variety of alternative suggestions for interpretation I will bring confusion rather than insight. I hope not. I think it’s clear to see that the weight of evidence is actually pretty much overwhelming: Romans 1 does not condemn same-gender couples wishing to enter loving, lifelong, covenantal marriages.
Whether you agree with my analysis of the so-called Biblical “clobber verses” in previous blog entries or not, the discussion about LGBTQI issues in the church is really centred on the issue of marriage (and sex). The next few entries in this series will be focused on what the Bible says – and doesn’t say – about marriage.
Since I began my work on this issue over a decade ago, most Christians have shifted from being totally opposed to LGBTQI people to now welcoming them into their churches – even if only as “sinners” who need be “healed”. But they believe and teach that LGBTQI people should be celibate, and they believe that marriage can only be between a “natural man” and a “natural woman”. For them, the actual “sin” of homosexuality is same-sex sexual activity, and since they also believe that sexual activity is confined to marriage, LGBTQI people should neither marry nor have sex.
Most countries that have legalised gay marriage have actually created a new category called “civil unions” rather than including LGBTQI people in laws about marriage – this is largely been done to placate conservative religious groups. Churches are enabled to hide behind this legal distinction, by acknowledging civil unions as legal entities but continuing to deny gay “marriages” in their churches.
We are spending a lot of time in Romans 1, because this is the passage that most people point to when they want to exclude LGBTQI people from the church and Christian faith. This is the fourth part of our mini-series in Romans, and looks in even more detail at the original text and specifically at Romans 1:26-27, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
What were the women, and men, actually doing? And what did Paul condemn in these verses?
We will discover that Paul’s issue is temple prostitution and pederistic relationships. And that he is not actually condemning same gender sexual activity in these verses. That’s right: the verses don’t say what you’ve been told they say. And once you see what they do say, you won’t be able to unsee it.
In Romans 1, Paul says that women and men were “given over by God” to their “shameful lusts” and did what is “against nature”. What did he mean by this? And does that apply to LGBTQI people today who want to get married to their lifelong, loving partner?
In this episode of the ALLin Pod we do detailed word studies of what it means for something to be shameful and unnatural. Neither of them are what you might expect: they’re related to things that are socially unacceptable, rather than something that is morally wrong or evil.
This changes completely how we should understand this passage.
This is part 2 of the mini-series in the book of Romans, Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. In the first chapter of this letter, Paul appears to list a whole lot of sins, including same gender sexual activity. But if you read on into Romans 2, and in fact the rest of the letter, the tone and purpose of the first chapter seems to change. So, what was the purpose of the letter, and what light does that shine on how we should understand chapter 1. Graeme Codrington explores these questions, and comes once again to the same conclusion: that Romans 1 is not addressing loving, consensual LGBTQI relationships at all.
This is a long episode, and we highly recommend that you have a Bible handy to follow along the readings. In fact, we recommend you read the whole letter to the Romans before listening to this episode.
Further readings on the purpose of the letter to the Romans:
We finally get to the book of Romans in our study of the verses that have traditionally been used to oppose gay marriage and the inclusion of the LGBTQI community into churches. This is the start of a four part mini series on Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, and in this episode we read through the text looking at the plain meaning of Romans 1 and 2. We’ll get into more detail in the next episodes, but even on the plain reading of the text, it is clear that Paul is not talking about loving, committed, monogamous same gender relationships – he’s talking about something else.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul says that those people who are “malakos” are outside of the Kingdom of God. This is a Greek word that means “soft”. It is a strange choice of word for Paul to use if he meant to describe homosexuals. In the context of the passage, and with understanding of the culture of the day, this word makes a lot more sense if it is describing effeminate young men who made themselves available as “call boys”.
In his letters to Corinth and Timothy, the senior pastor at Ephesus, Paul lists a number of sins that will keep people out of the Kingdom of God. Included in these lists is a word that Paul made up. Why did he make this word up, what does it mean, and how should we understand it today?
NOTES: See here for the table of vice lists referred to in the podcast.
Graeme Codrington's musings on a new kind of Christianity